Community Spotlight: The Literacy Council

Welcome to the latest blog post in our Community Spotlight series, where we highlight the remarkable individuals and organizations that make Frederick a great place to live and work. 

Today, we’re spotlighting the Literacy Council of Frederick County, a driving force in our community’s efforts to enhance literacy and English language proficiency.  Let’s dive into the story of this incredible organization and its impact on the community.

What do you think makes Frederick a great place to live? 

The Frederick County community is home to many warm and welcoming individuals who give generously of their time to volunteer with the Literacy Council to help adult learners and their families gain literacy skills and English language proficiency.

The Literacy Council celebrated its 60th Anniversary last year. Please share a little bit about your history with us. 

The Literacy Council was formed to help migrant workers providing seasonal labor on the farms learn to read by meeting weekly with trained volunteer tutors. Soon it became apparent that many Frederick County adults also struggled with reading, and the one-to-one tutoring program became a year-round mission.

What are some common misconceptions people have about literacy? 

Many people think of literacy as only about reading. In today’s world, having functional literacy skills goes beyond reading, to also include examples such as digital, health, math literacy — so as to be able to navigate and access resources as an employee, a parent, and/or as an integral member of the community. 

Adults with limited English language proficiency need to gain listening comprehension, speaking, reading and writing skills in order to perform everyday tasks. Think about having to apply for health insurance or a job now versus years ago, and what it takes to access the information and systems you need. You have to be able to navigate using technology, a computer or smartphone, and read and understand what information is required.

 Imagine trying to communicate to the doctor’s office that your child is ill when you are unable to understand the automated menu when you call the doctor. These are examples of daily living skills that are critical to the wellbeing of your family.

Tell us about your vision, “Literacy lifts lives.” 

Literacy is the foundation for building a strong community. Making sure that adult literacy programs are accessible in our community lifts lives now and in the future, opening the door to sustainable employment, health care access, parental support for their children’s education, and community engagement. Literacy helps create financial stability for individuals and their communities, and inspires the next generation to learn and grow.

How important is community support in addressing limited literacy? 

The Literacy Council’s programs are made possible by hands-on support from over 175 volunteers, including volunteer tutors and class instructors, and leadership volunteers. Individuals, businesses and foundations also provide critical financial support resulting in the steady program growth experienced by the organization in recent years.

Please share some specific programs and initiatives you offer to promote literacy within the Frederick community.

The Literacy Council’s original tutoring program launched 60 years ago has now grown to include small group tutoring, community classes, parent literacy initiatives directly with six FCPS elementary schools through the Judy Centers, and workplace English classes for employers in hospitality and manufacturing businesses. By bringing English language learning directly to schools for parents, and to places of employment for workers … we are able to overcome barriers to access such as transportation, child care and variable job schedules.

In what ways can members of the community get involved or support the Literacy Council’s mission?

We are always seeking volunteers willing to give of their time as tutors and class instructors. We have a long waiting list of adults who are asking for help. The commitment is about an hour and a half a week to meet with an adult learner, over the course of a year. We provide training and materials. 

Please select the link below to access the volunteer inquiry and registration form. This form includes the schedule for upcoming volunteer information sessions and tutor training workshops.

Financial contributions is another way of providing direct support for operating expenses. We also accept donations of new and gently-used children’s books to support our parent literacy programs and school outreach programs.

Can you share a particularly inspiring success story or an example of the impact your work has had? 

We recently shared the story of one of our adult learners who participates in our Parent English classes and tutoring program: Ana was recognized at our annual Celebration of Achievements event in November. Fourteen years ago Ana moved to the U.S. from Mexico with her husband and son. Since moving to Frederick her family has grown to include two daughters, now ten and 8 years old. There are plenty of challenges to starting a new life in another country, including the language barriers that impact every facet of life. Three years ago, Ana started participating in a parent literacy program hosted by the Literacy Council at Waverly Elementary School, and it’s changing her life.

Ana says she felt left out of conversations with her daughters, who can both speak English, and she found it challenging to understand what was happening with her children’s schooling and advocate for them when necessary. At times she struggled to keep up with conversations when in public, at the grocery store or bank, and felt that people were sometimes unkind or impatient with her because she couldn’t speak English.

Then, an opportunity presented itself at her children’s school and while she knew it would be a lot of work, she jumped at the chance to learn the language. “I needed to learn another language because my kids speak another language,” Ana said. She added “Here the school system is very different than in my country and I don’t understand a lot of stuff. Here [Waverly Elementary School] there are people who speak Spanish to help explain things but what happens when our kids go to middle school and high school? So I need to learn English so I can understand and deal with problems myself.”

For the last six years, the Literacy Council has worked with Frederick County Public Schools (FCPS) and the Judy Centers to reach parents, referred by the school liaison staff, whose young children attend Title I elementary schools and who need to improve their literacy skills. he program has grown from two elementary schools to five (and now six!) with dedicated classes and tutoring provided at the schools during school hours, eliminating the barriers of transportation and childcare that often prevent parents from seeking help. The program helps the parent to interact with the school and to be an active participant in the education of their child in addition to the general benefits of improved literacy.

Ana has come a long way in her English literacy journey. She jokes that now her kids can no longer talk about her in a language she doesn’t understand, and with the confidence she has gained from being able to speak English, she has become an active volunteer at the school and a mentor to other immigrant parents.

“Often she represents others that don’t necessarily have that courage yet to engage with the school community,” said John Bruton, the Literacy Council volunteer who runs the classes. “She empowered herself by taking advantage of this resource, and now she’s empowering other women too by encouraging them to learn English and get involved.”

“She’s a star,” said Claudia Hernandez, Program Administrator for Judy Centers. “As a parent and immigrant in this county, she’s using the resources available to her to be a viable contributing part of the community in Frederick.”

While Ana is active in her children’s school, she’s also been very busy doing other things. She said she found free classes at the library in Baltimore to help her learn about running a small business, and with that under her belt, she and her husband launched a cleaning business last year. She smiles when she says she’ll take almost any free class she can find.

“She’s going to grab any opportunity she can get,” John said as he beamed with pride at Ana, his very ambitious and successful student.

Ana was recognized for these milestones at the Literacy Council’s Celebration of Achievements event in November where she shared her story in Our Literacy Journey with LCFC – Ana and Family.


LSWG recently had the privilege of being a Double Word sponsor at the Scrabble Mania for Literacy fundraiser. Additionally, LSWG Principal Ted Gregory volunteers as a tutor with the Literacy Council. Join us in supporting the Literacy Council.

We extend our thanks to the Literacy Council for sharing their inspiring journey and unwavering commitment to our community. If you found this story as inspiring as we did, please share it with others interested in learning more about the Literacy Council’s impactful work. Together, we can continue to support and uplift those around us, ensuring a brighter future for all.

“Volunteering at the Literacy Council of Frederick County has been a rewarding journey, witnessing firsthand the transformational power of literacy by helping community members to develop their English language skills that lead to new opportunities. I am proud to be part of this incredible organization making a lasting difference in Frederick and beyond.” –Ted Gregory, CPA, ASA, Principal

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